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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Half for Me and Half for Others

I recently read Og Mandino's The Greatest Salesman in the World. I had originally checked it out from the library for my husband who works in sales. The book is completely different than what I had expected. Its story is set two thousand years ago and features a salesman who became powerful and wealthy by following the secrets contained in ancient scrolls that he alone read. I was surprised to learn that the salesman was directed to give away half his profits every year and that this practice drove his success rather than impoverishing him.

I came across the same idea in the next book I read, The Power of Half by Kevin and Hannah Salwen. This book published in 2010 tells the story of an American family who decide to sell their home and donate half of the profits to help others. This dramatic idea was triggered when the family's teenage daughter, Hannah, observed the juxtaposition of a homeless man with a man driving past him in a Mercedes. She mused aloud that if the rich man drove a less expensive car then he would be able to use the extra money to help the homeless man.

The book follows the family's decision making process as they consider how they can do more to help the less fortunate. Even before their luxury home is sold, they move into a significantly smaller home. They spend weekends discussing the world's problems and researching organizations that are working to make a difference. One chapter takes a hard look at the large amounts of money that have already been donated to developing nations and where well intentioned efforts have gone wrong.

Just as with Mandino's book, I was surprised by this book by the Salwens. I had thought the main story of the book would be the house's sale and the family's donation. Instead it's about the transformation of the Salwen's family dynamics and the maturing of their teenage children into thoughtful, caring young adults. The sacrificial sale of their home is a footnote to the story rather than it's main theme.

pricingiStock_000003753487XSmallWhen I started this library reading challenge, I could not have imagined the inspirational stories I would encounter this year. Certainly before reading about the concept of giving half in these books, I would have outright dismissed the idea as ridiculous. But now I see it differently, especially because of the Salwen's example. Not that I'm implementing it myself or recommending that anyone else do so. I'm just reevaluating my own needs and the concept of what is enough.

What do YOU think of the idea of keeping half for yourself and giving half to others less fortunate? Crazy or thought provoking?

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